Burning Questions for the Giants Ahead of the NFL Combine

Patricia Traina

Despite the 4-12 record from a year ago, which resulted in another upheaval of the coaching staff, the Giants' approach as they enter this week's scouting combine is a little bit different than it was the last time they had a new head coach.

While no one who remains with the organization is happy with the record, it's understood that the record was due in part to the abundance of youth that general manager Dave Gettleman infused following a massive roster overhaul to rid the team of bloated contract holders who were grossly underperforming.

The Giants paid the price this year for that, carrying more than $55.16 million in dead money, which, in part, hamstrung them when it came to extending those players who are part of their future and being more competitive in free agency.

But with that two-year process just about complete--and yes, there will likely be a few more overpriced, underperforming contracts removed from the books in the coming week--the Giants can get down to the business at hand of continuing to restock the cupboard.

Here is a look at some of the questions they'll try to gain clarity on over the next several days.

1. How do the offensive tackles stack up?

The consensus among draft analysts before the combine is that there are several solid offensive tackle prospects--Iowa's Tristan Wirfs, Georgia's Andrew Thomas, Louisville's Mekhi Becton, Houston's Josh Jones, and Alabama's Jedrick Wills--whom many draft analysts have at the top of the class.

The Giants will need at least one offensive tackle this year, as Mike Remmers is an unrestricted free agent, and Nate Solder is approaching the back end of his contract.

The Giants could go or the short-term fix by adding Jack Conklin, a 25-year-old free agent-to-be to the mix. Still, in the long-term, they need to ask themselves if they're better off drafting their franchise left tackle now, while they're still in a relatively good spot to grab one, or looking elsewhere with the No. 4 overall pick.

2. Offense or Defense?

Early speculation has the Giants leaning toward the offensive side of the ball in the draft and addressing the defense with their salary cap windfall via free agency. But if Ohio State's Chase Young should somehow fall to the Giants at No. 4, he would be tough to pass up in favor of an offensive tackle.

Young is widely regarded as a generational talent. Unless you're a team that desperately needs a franchise quarterback (which the Giants do not), it would be malpractice to pass over a potential game-changer on defense if he's sitting there at No. 4.

But if Young is off the board as is the expectation, do they still go with an offensive tackle, or do they maybe look at Clemson's Isaiah Simmons, who would instantly upgrade the speed on the defense's back end tenfold?

3. To trade or not to trade?

The Giants won't admit it, but last year during the combine, the seeds were planted for their two big trades that involved sending Olivier Vernon to the Browns for Kevin Zeitler and receiver Odell Beckham Jr to the Browns for safety Jabrill Peppers and a couple of draft picks.

The combine provides a setting for all 32 general managers and head coaches to be under the same roof at one time, so it will be interesting to see if whispers emerge of a potential trade.

No decision figures to be made this week, but it can't hurt to gauge what other teams might be thinking, especially the three quarterback-needy teams that draft No. 5, 6 and 7 behind the Giants and who might be looking to jump each other to get the best player on the board.

And speaking of trade, don't be surprised if Gettleman makes it a mission to get back into the top of the third round after shipping the 68th overall pick to the Jets as part of the Leonard Williams trade.

As of this writing, there are 64 draft choices between the Giants' second-round pick and their fourth (they should be getting a third-round comp pick for safety Landon Collins).

If there's one thing that Gettleman has shown he doesn't like to do, it's waiting around too long in between draft picks.

Although he created this situation with his still headscratcher of a decision to trade draft capital for a player who was going to be a free agent, it would be surprising if Gettleman sits on his hands and doesn't try to add another pick in the top 100 in some way.

4. Speaking of Leonard Williams...

In addition to all the head coaches and general managers set to be under the same roof for the week, the NFL agents will be in town for their various meetings in between supporting their clients who are participating in the combine.

That should include Roosevelt Barnes, who is listed by NFLPA records as the representation for Williams.

The Giants and Williams have both said they want to be part of each other's future, but talking and doing are two very different things, and certainly, the money needs to be right for both sides.

The Giants could potentially look to apply the transition tag on Williams to establish a baseline average per year (APY) rate. Still, if they do, it would remain to be seen if other teams might try to lure Williams away from the Giants with a more lucrative contract that would force the Giants to either match or relinquish any rights.

5. And what about the other free agents?

The Giants, according to Over the Cap, have an estimated $61,961,717 of cap space that will increase once they finally reveal which salary cap cuts they're making.

But don't expect the Giants to go crazy with spending, not after two wild spending sprees in 2014 and 2016 ended up coming back to haunt them a couple of years later.

Although the league's official "tampering" period isn't until next month, it would be naive to think that teams don't go to the combine with a rough idea as to which free agents they want to pursue from other teams and what kind of money they're looking to spend.

Gettleman has never been one to talk contracts through the media, but it will be interesting to see if the Giants, who last year poured most of their draft resources into the defensive side of the ball, flip the script around this year and draft mostly offensive players while looking to add a few veterans to that still young and developing defense. 

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